An Israeli F16 fighter jet takes off during a joint international aerial training exercise hosted by Israel and dubbed "Blue Flag 2017" at Ovda military air base in southern Israel November 8, 2017. Picture taken November 8, 2017. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen).
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
If, or – perhaps more accurately – when, war breaks out again on the northern border with Iranian proxy Hezbollah, the international community won’t be able to claim it was not forewarned.
Israel has been telling anyone willing to listen that Iran is entrenching itself in Syria and is developing precision missiles in Lebanon designed to be fired at Israel. And Israel has no intention of sitting by idly while Tehran does it.
During his visit to Moscow on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made this clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If Iran is not stopped,” Netanyahu reportedly told Putin, “then Israel will stop it.”
The prime minister’s message to Putin is part of a larger campaign warning of Iranian belligerence and Israel’s refusal to accept it.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis warned recently in a rare op-ed on the Hezbollah-friendly Al-Masdar website that was also broadcast on the Voice of Beirut radio station that “Lebanon has become – both by its own actions and omissions and by a blind eye from many members of the international community – one large missile factory.”
“Iran has de facto opened a new branch, the ‘Lebanon branch.’ Iran is here... The future of Lebanese citizens is in the hands of a dictator who sits in Tehran,” Manelis wrote, adding that “I think it is right to warn the residents of Lebanon of the Iranian game in their security and in their future.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman echoed the message, noting that while Israel has no desire to go to war, it will use “all the options” available to it to prevent the production of missiles in Lebanon by Iran and Hezbollah.
Further increasing the chances of a conflict is the blustering of Hezbollah. “Israel should not be unmindful and engage itself in a war that would destroy it,” Mohammad Raad, a member of Lebanon’s parliament from Hezbollah, warned in response to Manelis’s op-ed. “Hezbollah has become today stronger and has what it takes to destroy the Israeli army.”
Raad’s overblown confidence is probably shared by his fellow Hezbollah terrorists. And this does not bode well for the future. As history has taught us, one of the main causes of war is the mistaken estimate by a weak but bellicose aggressor that it has the power to overcome its much stronger enemy. If Hezbollah starts a war with Israel due to visions of grandeur and a false belief that it can defeat the Jewish state, it will be proven wrong only after hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Lebanese are killed.
Apparently, Hezbollah has a short memory. Israel caused extensive damage to southern Lebanon during the 34-day Second Lebanon War of 2006. More than a thousand Lebanese, most of them Hezbollah fighters, were killed, and over 5,000 Lebanese were wounded.
Perhaps Hezbollah truly believes that it has the capabilities to overcome Israel. This might be because the Shi’ite group overvalues the experience it has accrued from fighting alongside the Assad regime, Iran and Russia in Syria. Hezbollah’s naval forces are reportedly receiving tactical support from Iran, which is also involved in the fighting in Yemen.
Or it might be because since 2006 Hezbollah has been assiduously building it rocket arsenal, including missiles that can reach central Israel; developing an intricate tunnel system, complete with ventilation, electricity and rocket launchers; and, because it is no longer bogged down in Syria, it can mobilize almost 30,000 fighters.
Whatever the reason, Hezbollah is dangerously overestimating its military capabilities, which makes it prone to stupid actions that are liable to drag southern Lebanon into another war.
It is not too late for countries such as Russia and the US to avert another destructive conflagration in Lebanon that would force Israel to reestablish deterrence with Hezbollah at a terrible price to the Lebanese people. For this to happen, however, there must be a clear recognition that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah are the ones escalating the conflict.
In any event, if or when war breaks out again on the northern border, world leaders will not be able to say they were not warned.